Belgium’s Emptiness have spent much of their career eschewing traditional approaches and with Not for Music they continue to imbue their singular take on black metal with wholly impure vibrations and ever more intriguing design elements. One such decision is the inclusion of Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson’s Twiggy Ramirez) on production duties and it’s this somewhat unusual choice that gives the Brussels-based quartet a fascinating dimension. Emptiness have always tread the more avant-garde path and their use of synths and beats to facilitate emotion is given even more time on this record, and it works incredibly well.
Not for Music builds on previous work and intersperses darkness with electric movements and carefully placed rhythms, expanding on the tripped out beats of 2014s incredible Nothing but the Whole. Vocals are coiled and layered to provide an otherworldly dimension that spins and loops through the record with Jeremie Bezier giving a tortured performance that’s, for the most part, haunting, guttural whispers. It’s a technique that gives Emptiness a unique voice and one that serves their dark, cloying atmospheres extremely well. “Meat Heart” begins the record on rhythms that creep and crawl deep into the skin before “It Might Be” slinks into view and curls its disharmonic sounds into tactile nightmares and shifting patterns of electronics while Bezier’s vocals slide towards harsher tones and the abyssal dissonance of “Your Skin Won’t Hide You.”
“Digging the Sky” echoes with manipulated voices vying for space around the simple structures of guitar that tumble above, and while the progression seems much quieter and subtler during this track, the silence is soon cracked by towering sounds and almost mechanical drums that drive the song onwards to oblivion and the frightening narratives contained within.
“Ever” is ushered in on a bounding beat that belies the narcissistic lyrics below and takes a distinct curve when it shifts into synthwave with no warning and a confidence that comes easily to a band not afraid to play with genre boundaries. It’s a true highlight of a record that doesn’t play by the rules and allows the band to move even further away from the black metal blueprint that informed earlier works. They incorporate the cavernous dread of death metal into album closer “Let it Fall” with disharmonic movements of guitar and strong, spat-out vocals. Emptiness are more than the sum of their parts and Not for Music is a statement that will be talked about for a long while.
8.5 / 10
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